Saturday, the 6th of May, was Free Comic Book Day 2017 and all the festivities seem like quite a long time ago. There was a veritable mountain of free comic books to collect and now the dust has settled what did the Big Red Barrel Comics team think of what was on offer?
Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken (IDW Publishing)
Mirror Broken avoids both the “Prime” Star Trek universe and J. J. Abrams’ more explosion filled alternative to take us to the Mirror Universe. Everything is familiar and yet different with an evil Terran Empire in place of the Federation, bearded (but still bald) Captain Picard and the rest of The Next Generation crew on board the I.S.S. Stargazer chasing after the Starship Enterprise. Our hero is Lt Barclay (usually somewhat cowardly in the Prime universe), who is about to make a bold grab for power.
Reuben’s Verdict: Star Trek: I am not the biggest trekkie in the world but I am just familiar enough with the world and characters of the Next Generation that the core conceit of this issue was immediately clear; a dark mirror of the world we have come to see from the series is exactly the kind of fodder for a special episode of the show itself. ‘What Ifs?’ of this nature are always entertaining with well-established series. The almost Alex Ross styled art makes an impression and the way each of the characters is both instantly recognisable and yet totally alien nails exactly what the story needs.
Richard’s Verdict: There is definitely something interesting in this comic. The artist has perfectly captured the very familiar Star Trek The Next Generation look while adding enough of a twist to make this Mirror Universe seem strange and different. As somebody who is not that familiar with this alternative reality I am a little lost as to what the crew of the I.S.S. Stargazer or the Terran Empire are after but the heroic Barclay offers a compelling protagonist to wherever this story is going.
Secret Wars (Marvel)
Much like the Star Trek comic, Secret Wars has heroes cast as villains but this time there is no alternative dimension in site. Captain America is a Hydra agent and all that is good in the world seems to be falling apart. We follow one the few heroes who remains on the right side as they narrate their doomed attempt to resist the forces of evil.
Reuben’s Verdict: Secret Wars is easily the most controversial Marvel event of recent years This FCBD issue ties into the event, serving as a prequel and a teaser of the things to come. The battle between the Avengers and host of villains is nothing we have not seen before but the very presence of Captain America standing with Hydra is enough to give the whole proceeding a very different feel. And the final page of Cap wielding Mjolnir while being declared worthy is the most conflicted I have ever felt about a comic book page. The secondary story about Spider-Man as a preview for the new ongoing series and the light-hearted rapid fire jokes make for a welcome change of pace that leaves us on much more familiar but no less enjoyable ground.
Richard’s Verdict: I have said it before and I am sure I will say it again; one of the problems with Marvel Comics is that it is very difficult for the uninitiated to find a good starting point. The annual Marvel event might serve as a good way to start reading comics but certainly not this year. I have no idea what is going on at all. Like many people I have vaguely heard that Captain America is now a baddie but it seems impossible to give it credence. I cannot help but feel, whatever comes of this story-line, something very close to the status quo will be around the corner rendering it all pointless. Will it be worth the ride? Hard to say but there is too much I cannot keep up here for me to find out.
Riverdale (Archie Comics)
While I am not sure anyone at Big Red Barrel would actually call the Riverdale TV show good, the Geek Speak girls certainly do watch it. Based on the long running Archie comics, Riverdale has reimagined the adventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead as less cuddly middle American whimsey and more a sensationalist, sexy teen drama. This comic serves as a prequel to show, including the somewhat improbable origin story for Archie’s abs; a summer spent working in the construction industry. We also see Archie’s doomed romance with his high-school teacher Ms Grundy, Archie writing love songs with his guitar and Jughead using a Macbook in a coffee shop.
Reuben’s Verdict: Riverdale (The comic of the TV show of the comic book), is a story about teenagers being angsty and finding themselves and also apparently being adjacent to a murder. The comic is a backstory to the series itself and promises more to come. If you are a fan of the show then getting more stories might appeal but I cannot say that I was tempted to catch up after reading it.
Richard’s Verdict: I could not find anything in this comic to recommend itself. I suspect I am also not the target market for the TV show. I am afraid all I could think about was that Ms Grundy had committed quite a serious crime and should be on some sort of register but the comic does not seem in any way interested in that.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW)
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made their start in comics and although they have been translated into almost all forms of media since then, with varying degrees of success, they are still at home on the page as much as the screen. This comic is a series flashbacks and exposition to explain the turtles, their world and the characters in it through a brief conversation between the brothers and a robot called Professor Honeycut while setting up the TMNT: Dimension X story arc.
Reuben’s Verdict: I particularly like the use of coloured text boxes to follow the conversation, as dialogue between 5 different off screen characters is often a difficult thing to manage. Although it feels a little rushed in its world-building I’m interested to see what lies ahead for the turtles as they ‘Return to Dimension X’ (have they been there before?).
Richard’s Verdict: I have already bemoaned how difficult it is to get into Marvel comics. TMNT on the other hand have provided a perfect jumping on point for their story. As long as you know who Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo are then I am pretty confident that you could read this and pick up TMNT #73 and know exactly what is going on. Perfect use of a FCBD issue.
Zelda: Twilight Princess (Viz Media)
Two years ago the land where Link was born disappeared without a trace. Terrified, Link runs away to a nearby castle. This comic, which is really the first few pages of the Twilight Princess manga book series, introduces us to Link and his hero’s journey (that began with him refusing the call, receiving supernatural aid in the form of the Master Sword and will presumably go through each of Joseph Campbell’s 17 steps).
Reuben’s Verdict: Another weird one. The Legend of Zelda has never been particularly complex or deep in its storytelling. Generally speaking, a blonde boy in a green hat saves a princess from a ginger pig-man. This story seems to want to tell a different, or at least more fleshed out origin for Link, and I don’t really understand why they bothered. The story seems a little overly dramatic and histrionic in a way that does not entirely mesh with the established world of Hyrule and in particular giving Link a voice comes across as a strange decision. I’m not personally a fan of the manga art style so I might be a little biased against it. It also has very little to do with the actual ‘Twilight Princess’ game, so not sure why they called it that. Overall, not great but I am also definitely not the target audience.
Richard’s Verdict: I have never played more than 30 seconds of a Zelda game but, while I understand they are hugely popular, from what I know of the story of Zelda I do not see why anyone would want to read a manga series based on their plots. The utterly paint by numbers start to a heroic fantasy story has not served to change my opinion. This is not for me.
And there we have it. We’ll be back soon with out thoughts on the best of the rest of FCBD2017.
Tags: Archie, comics, dc, FCBD, Free Comic Book Day, IDW, IDW Publishing, Marvel, Riverdale, Secret Empire, Star Trek, Star Trek The Next Generation, TMNT